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As mentioned elsewhere, there is more to inspecting hives and apiaries than the active inspection.
There is planning and preparation for the inspection, AKA the “Pre-Inspection”. Then there is actually conducting the “Active Inspection”. Last and equally important is to analyze and determine necessary follow-up called the “Post-Inspection”.
At BBE-Tech Apiary Services, there are multiple levels of experience and expectation in the Apiarist roles.
Typically, the Apiary Manager is responsible for the Pre and Post Inspections. The Apiarist is responsible for conducting the Active Inspection. In apiaries where these roles are carried out by the same person, it is important to understand plan preparation and follow-up coordination to stay on task.
The analysis of the previous inspections and overall Apiary plans figure largely into preparing for the next inspection. The Pre-Inspection identifies what to specifically look for, what needs to be done and in what order based on previous notes, and what “should” be being done based on seasonal and production plans and expectations.
In my apiaries this is mostly done by the Apiary Manager because they have access to and awareness of the specific plans for the Apiary as a whole and it's intended goals and objectives.
If you don't know what you're looking for during a hive inspection, essentially you're wasting time, effort and resources of the bees. This can lead to unnecessary distress in the colony which contributes to sickness and weakened response to pests.
This is obviously important as the fact finding aspect of the process. It's the opportunity to observe and document what is happening and present in and around the hive.
I have the BBE-Tech Apiary Services inspection checklist that should be followed precisely. The Pre inspection plan should indicate areas to focus on for special attention and action.
It is wise to as informed as possible in regards to how many problems in the hive present themselves. Immediate action to address an issue that presents itself not indicated already by the Pre-Inspection should be done exactly as the Apiary Plan specifies and the Apiary Manager informed immediately.
Having a second person along can be extremely beneficial. They can assist directly by holding items, passing things and even taking photos of things you indicate for records.
After all documentation has been done and actions necessary have been completed, the final aspect begins in the Post-Inspection.
The Apiary Manager should carefully review all documentation and photos if available. Using that data he or she begins to the Pre-Inspection plan for the following scheduled inspection.
The Apiary Manager should prioritize actions needing to be taken and schedule them in the time appropriate to be working in the Green Zone as much as possible. The G/Y/R prioritization process can help avoid distressing colonies unnecessarily.
After this part is done, the Apiary Manager will have a colored sticker of the indicated hive status placed in a viewable place on the front of the hive with the most recent inspection date written on it.
Hive Inspection is done for the purpose of determining quality of conditions of the hive, colony strength, progress of harvest.
Inspection should place a priority on Integrated Pest Management.
The desired result of any and every colony is to find evidence of a colony that is healthy and thriving. Thriving is the key word here. Thriving relates to colony strength which us tied to the Bee population to space ratio and maximizing individual and caste specialization.
Any colony found at the conclusion of any inspection to not be considered thriving should be considered distressed to some degree.
Thriving is also relative to time of year when the colony intentionally grows or decreases the population take become more efficient for seasonal purposes.
Inspecting an apiary has two purposes. The first is to determine quality, capacity and operability. This is usually done before hives are placed to determine if the site is viable or to establish limitations.
The second purpose is to establish ongoing conditions as to the strength of environmental and ecological aspects of the apiary.
To this end, I use the CNG guide and inspection form at every apiary inspection regardless of if the apiary is considered or expected to meet organic standards.